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Kurt von Tippelskirch was born in Germany. He joined the German Army and on the outbreak of the Second World War was director of army intelligence.
In the summer of 1941 he took part in Operation Barbarossa where he commanded the 30th Infantry Division. Promoted to head of the 12th Corps and in May 1943 moved to the 4th Army.
In July 1944, Tippelskirch was badly injured in a plane crash and was invalided back to Germany. After recovering he was sent to Italy where he took command of the 14th Army. On 26th December 1944, Tippelskirch launched Operation Winter Thunderstorm. It was a great success and helped to halt the Allied offensive until spring 1945.
Replaced by Joachim Lemelsen in February 1945, Tippelskirch returned to lead the 21st Army in the defence of northern Germany against the Red Army. Tippelskirch surrendered to the US Army on 2nd May 1945. After the war Tippelskirch wrote several books on military history.
Frontal defence was much stronger in this war even than in 1914-18. The Russians always failed to break our front, and although they pushed far round our flanks, they had not yet the skill nor sufficient supplies to drive home their advantage. We concentrated on holding the towns that were rail and road centres, rolling up round them like 'hedgehogs' - that was Hitler's idea - and succeeded in holding them firmly. The situation was saved. It was his one great achievement. At that critical moment the troops were remembering what they had heard about Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, and living under the shadow of it. If they had once begun a retreat, it might have turned into a panic flight.
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 23 Nov 2019, 19:56
- Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13 März 1938,
- Medaille zur Erinnerung an den Heimkehr des Memellandes, (before last on ribbonbar)
- Wehrmachtbericht (3.04.1944),
- Rumän. Orden (maybe Krone Orden) (Last on ribbonbar)
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 23 Nov 2019, 19:59
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 23 Nov 2019, 20:06
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 23 Nov 2019, 20:17
Nice photo of Kurt von Tippelskirch as an Oberst and Kommandeur Infanterie-Regiment 27 (15 October 1935 - 28 September 1936).
What are the two ribbons after the Ehrenkreuz?
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 24 Nov 2019, 02:51
Re: Kurt von Tippelskirch
Post by Gerst » 24 Nov 2019, 04:28
Iron Cross 2nd Class with 1939 Spange
Honor Cross with swords
Wehrmacht Treudienst I. Kl.
Wehrmacht Treidienst III Kl.
Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 13 März 1938,
Sudetenerinnerungsmedaille with Prager Burg
Medaille zur Erinnerung an den Heimkehr des Memellandes,
Italy – War Service Cross
General von Tippelskirch at French Armistice Meeting.
Post by USAF1986 » 29 Sep 2002, 05:43
I’m looking at Volume 2 of the good old Marshal Cavendish Illustrated WWII Encyclopedia (how many people “discovered” WWII with this great 24-volume set…used to under the publisher Marshal Cavendish?) and I found this interesting reference to the initial arrival of the French armistice delegation:
“At 1530 hours on the following day General von Tippelskirch, head of the Führer’s G.H.Q. staff, led the French delegates into Marshal Foch’s railway carriage, which the Germans had moved to the clearing at Rethondes. There they found, standing at the Nazi salute, Hitler, Ribbentrop, Hess, Göring, Keitel, and Raeder.”
Question: Was this then Generalleutnant Kurt von Tippelskirch, the O.Qu. IV of the Army General Staff? I can't find any other references that mention a “General von Tippelskirch” at this initial meeting.
Thanks for any assistance!
Post by Glenn2438 » 29 Sep 2002, 20:16
Jean Paul Pallud's "Blitzkrieg in the West then and now "states that "Five minutes later the French delegation arrived led by Huntziger and introduced by Generalleutnant Kurt von Tippelskirch of the OKH".
Tippelskirch promoted to Generalleutnant on the 1st of June 1940 was then O.Qu. IV or fourth deputy chief of staff.
Post by USAF1986 » 29 Sep 2002, 21:03
As always, MANY thanks for your valuable assistance! One of these days, I've got to get Pallud’s. people always seem to be talking about it or referring to it! I’m very impressed with his work in “After the Battle” magazine.
Kurt von Tippelskirch : Nazi Germany - History
Below is a list of the known Generals and Admirals who were members of the Johanniter Order (Johanniterorden), the German Protestant branch of the Knights Hospitaller, who became generals and admirals in the Reichswehr and the Third Reich-era Wehrmacht. As the neck badge of this order bears a frustrating resemblance to the Prussian Pour le Mérite Order, hopefully, this provisional roster will aid fellow researchers in ruling out that decoration when analyzing photographs.
Although not a military decoration, but a badge of membership within the Christian Johanniter Order, it could be worn in military uniform. However, membership in the order and the wearing of its badges was progressively suppressed under the Third Reich.
Members of the Johanniter Order were, for our purposes, divided into two classes: Knight of Honor (Ehrenritter) and Knight of Justice (Rechtsritter). All members wore the white Maltese cross of the order on the lower left breast. In most cases, the breast badge was made of cloth, but I’ve seen a few examples of metal pin-back crosses.
This roster was primarily derived from the Rangliste des Deutschen Reichsheeres (1 May 1926) and the Rangliste der Deutschen Reichsmarine (5 January 1928) and cross indexed with Biblio Verlag’s excellent Generale/Admirale series and Wolf Keilig’s Die Generale des Heeres. A small number of members were also derived from photographic evidence.
Unless otherwise indicated, the members listed were Knights of Honor (Ehrenritter). It is quite possible that several were elevated to Knight of Justice (Rechtsritter) at a date later than the publication of the sources used.
Generalmajor Hans-Henning von Alten
Generalleutnant Wilhelm von Apell
Generalmajor Percy Baron von Ascheberg
Generalmajor Hans von Basse
Generalleutnant z.V. Oskar von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Lothar von Block
Generalleutnant Ferdinand Bock von Wülfingen (Knight of Justice)
Char. Generalmajor Georg Bock von Wülfingen
General der Artillerie Friedrich von Boetticher
Generalleutnant Hans Reichsfreiherr von Boineburg-Lengsfeld
SS-Guppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei Adolf von Bomhard
Vizeadmiral Kurt von dem Borne
General der Infanterie Kuno-Hans von Both
Char. Generalmajor Adolf von Brauchitsch
Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch
Generalmajor Ferdinand von Bredow
Konteradmiral Hasso von Bredow
General der Infanterie Kurt von Briesen
(photographic evidence of breast badge – unknown if Knight of Honor or Knight of Justice no entry in the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels)
General der Infanterie Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt (Knight of Justice)
Char. Generalleutnant Felix von Buchholtz
Char. Generalmajor Hartwig von Bülow
General der Infanterie Rudolf von Bünau (Elevated to Knight of Justice in 1950 and Knight Commander in 1952)
Char. General der Artillerie Erich Freiherr von dem Bussche-Ippenburg (Knight of Justice)
General der Infanterie Friedrich-Wilhelm von Chappuis
Char. General der Artillerie Siegfried von la Chevallerie
Generalleutnant Conrad von Cochenhausen
General der Artillerie Dr. phil. Friedrich von Cochenhausen
Generalleutnant Alexander Edler von Daniels
Generalmajor Günther von Dewitz genannt von Krebs
Generalmajor Karl von Dewitz genannt von Krebs (Knight of Justice)
Generalleutnant Max von Diringshofen
Generalleutnant Viktor von Drabich-Waechter
Char. Generalmajor z.V. Curt von Einem
Char. General der Infanterie Friedrich Freiherr von Esebeck
Generalleutnant Moritz von Faber du Faur
General der Infanterie z.V. Alexander von Falkenhausen (Knight of Justice)
Generaloberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (Knight of Justice)
Char. General der Infanterie Ernst Freiherr von Forstner (Knight of Justice)
Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg
Generaloberst Werner Freiherr von Fritsch (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Eckhard von Geyso
General der Infanterie Werner-Albrecht Freiherr von und zu Gilsa
Generalleutnant Richard von Graberg
Generalleutnant Woldemar Freiherr Grote (Knight of Justice)
Generaloberst z.V. Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord
Generalleutnant (char.) Frithjof Freiherr von Hammerstein-Gesmold
General der Infanterie Hermann von Hanneken
Generalmajor Wolfgang von Holwede
Generalleutnant René de l’ Homme de Courbière
Generalleutnant z.V. Hans von Hösslin
Generalmajor Sigmund Freiherr von Imhoff
Char. Generalleutnant Hans-Georg von Jagow
Char. General der Kavallerie Walther von Jagow
General der Kavallerie Hugo von Kayser
Generalleutnant Hans von Kempski
Generalleutnant Adolf von Kleist
Generalfeldmarschall Ewald von Kleist (Knight of Justice)
General der Panzertruppe Otto von Knobelsdorff
General der Infanterie Joachim von Kortzfleisch
Char. Generalmajor Horst Kuhlwein von Rathenow
Generalfeldmarschall Georg von Küchler
Generalleutnant Georg von Kutzleben (Knight of Justice)
Generalleutnant Leopold Freiherr von Ledebur
General der Infanterie Ernst von Leyser
Generalleutnant z.V. Friedrich (Fritz) von der Lippe
Char. Generalleutnant Georg von der Lippe
Generalmajor Axel von der Lochau
Char. Generalmajor Eckhart von Loeben (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Georg Freiherr Loeffelholz von Colberg
Generalmajor Gottschalk von Loewenich
Char. Vizeadmiral Wilhelm Friedrich (gen. Wilfried) von Loewenfeld (Knight of Justice)
General der Infanterie Friedrich-Karl von Loßberg (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Ferdinand Ritter von Mann Edler von Tiechler
Generalmajor Wilhelm von Natzmer (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor z.V. Georg von Niebecker
Generalmajor Wilhelm von Nippold (Knight of Justice)
SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant der Polizei Otto von Oelhafen
char. Generalmajor Feodor von Ohnesorge
Generalleutnant Helmuth von Pannwitz
Generalmajor Axel von Platen (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Hartwig von Platen
Generalmajor Egon von Ploetz
Generalleutnant z.V. Wolfgang Edler Herr und Freiherr von Plotho
General der Kavallerie Maximilian von Poseck (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor z.V. Richard von Pressentin
Generalmajor z.V. Prinz Oskar von Preußen (Herrenmeister of the Johanniter Order, 1927-1958)
Generalmajor Georg von Priem
Generalleutnant Heinrich von Prittwitz und Gaffron (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor z.V. Max von Prittwitz und Gaffron
SS-Oberführer Otto von Proeck
Generalleutnant Alfred von Puttkamer
Generalleutnant z.V. Jesko von Puttkamer
General der Artillerie Friedrich von Rabenau (Knight of Justice)
Char. General der Flakartillerie Karl von Roques
Generalmajor Kurt Rühle von Lilienstern
Generalmajor Alexander von Ruville
Generalleutnant Heinrich von Schenckendorff
General der Infanterie z.V. Max von Schenckendorff (Knight of Justice)
Generalleutnant Kurt von Schleicher (Knight of Justice)
Generalleutnant Joachim Freiherr von Schleinitz
Generalleutnant Siegmund Freiherr von Schleinitz
Char. Generalleutnant Walter Freiherr von Schleinitz
Admiral Otto von Schrader
Char. Vizeadmiral/General der Flakartillerie Ludwig von Schröder
(photographic evidence of breast badge – unknown if Knight of Honor or Knight of Justice no entry in the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels)
Generalleutnant z.V. Winfried von der Schulenburg (Knight of Justice)
General der Infanterie Viktor von Schwedler (Knight of Justice)
Konteradmiral Hans-Hermann Graf von Schweinitz und Krain Freiherr von Kauder
Generaloberst Hans von Seeckt (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Theobald Graf von Seherr-Thoß
Generalmajor Hans-Heinrich Freiherr von Seidlitz und Gohlau
Generalleutnant Hugo von Sommerfeld
Generalleutnant Hans Graf von Sponeck (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Johann von Stein
Generalmajor Karl von Stockhausen
Vizeadmiral z.V. Hans Hubertus von Stosch
Generalleutnant Bogislav von Studnitz
Char. General der Infanterie Joachim von Stülpnagel (Knight of Justice)
General der Infanterie Otto von Stülpnagel
Generalmajor Siegfried von Stülpnagel
Char. Generalleutnant Adalbert von Taysen
Generalleutnant Karl von Tiedemann
General der Infanterie Kurt von Tippelskirch
Vizeadmiral Wolf von Trotha
General der Infanterie Walther von Unruh
Generalmajor Ewald von Usedom
Generalleutnant Hans von Viereck
Generalleutnant Friedrich-Karl von Wachter
Generalmajor (postum) Wolfgang Freiherr von Waldenfels
Generalleutnant z.V. Ulrich von Waldow
Generalleutnant Magnus von Wedderkop
Oberst z.V./SS-Brigadeführer Otto von Weis (Knight of Justice)
Generalmajor Wolfgang von Werder
Generalmajor Georg-Thilo Freiherr von Werthern
Generalleutnant z.V. Reinhard von Westrem zum Gutacker
Generalleutnant Friedrich Freiherr von Wilmowsky
General der Flieger Bodo von Witzendorff
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin von Witzleben (Knight of Justice)
General der Infanterie Gustav-Adolf von Zangen (Knight of Justice)
Generalleutnant Hans-Georg von Zanthier
Generalleutnant Ferdinand von Zepelin
Generalleutnant Alexander von Zülow
Germany’s Last Field Marshal – The Butcher Ferdinand Schörnerand
During the Second World War, the Allies ran a series of propaganda posters entitled “This is the Enemy,” which depicted a variety of Axis personalities committing all sorts of atrocities. It was a very effective campaign and quickly provided the viewer with a clear reason why the nation was involved in the war.
The posters were published in a variety of languages, both for consumption at home and abroad, though the words were hardly needed for the viewer to understand the purpose behind the image.
The most famous of these images was of a German general or Field Marshal, high-collar tightly buttoned, chin raised arrogantly, and wearing the infamous Prussian monocle. The monocle’s reflection was the centerpiece of the poster, for reflected in the glass was the image of a person being hanged.Ferdinand Schörner, April 1941. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L29176 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
The expression on the face of the German was one of iron-hard discipline and approval. Sadly the image was quite correct. Regardless of the denials of apologists, many Wehrmacht generals ordered and carried out such atrocities. It was not just the SS.
Though his appearance did not fit the image on that poster, there might have been no German general officer that personified the hangman better than Ferdinand Schörner, the last man to carry the rank of Field Marshal in the German Army to this day.
General Schörner and his adjutant
Schörner was a martinet, butcher, and a middling general who rose through the ranks over mountains of corpses. Hitler loved him so much that, in his will at the end of the war, Hitler put Schörner in charge of the army upon his death.
Schörner was born in 1892 in Bavaria. Like many of the leading military figures of WWII, he fought in the First World War.
German assault troops at Caporetto.
He was decorated with the highest German honor for bravery at the time, the Pour Le Mérite (colloquially known as the “Blue Max”) for actions taken during the brutal fighting in the Battle of Caporetto on the Italian Front. His colleague in WWII, Erwin Rommel, was also a recipient of the medal at Caporetto.
There could not have been two more different men.
Lieutenant Schoerner with the Pour le Mérite in WWI, 1918
Rommel, by all accounts, was chivalrous, as humanitarian as possible towards his prisoners during wartime, loved by his men, and willing to talk back to Hitler. Famously, he was forced into taking his own life for his perceived role in the plot against Hitler in July 1944. Schörner was everything that Rommel was not.
During the inter-war years, Schörner was, like many officers in Bavaria, a member of the right-wing paramilitary Freikorps. Unlike many officers in the post-WWI years, who were mustered out as part of the restrictions placed on the German armed forces in the Versailles Treaty, he remained in the army.
Early Nazis who participated in the attempt to seize power during the 1923 Putsch. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2007-0003 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
He took part in the suppression of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, despite his right-wing leanings.
However, in the highly charged political atmosphere of inter-war Germany, Schörner found himself taking sides against the hated Weimar government, and joined the Nazi Party in the mid-1920s, while still retaining his position in the army.
Munich Marienplatz during the failed Beer Hall Putsch.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-1486 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
A year after Hitler came to power, Schörner was promoted to major and served on the General Staff, which was a significant step on the road to high position for any German officer.
In 1937, he was made Lt. Colonel (“Oberstleutnant”) and commanded the 98th Mountain (“Gebirgs”) Regiment. He commanded the regiment in the Polish Campaign as well as in France and Belgium the next year.
Ferdinand Schörner (centre) March 1941. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L22898 / Scheerer / CC-BY-SA 3.0
As a result of his role, he was given command of the 6th Gebirgs Division and was made a General. In the invasion of Greece, the Division played a role in cutting off the important city of Salonika off from the rest of the nation. Schörner then took part in the conquest of Athens and was given the Knight’s Cross by Hitler.
By all accounts, Schörner was an adequate general.
Adolf Hitler presenting Oak Leaves at a ceremony on 15 September 1943.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1993-136-11A / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Though not from Prussia, Schörner had all the qualities of the typical Prussian martinet: ruthless, unyielding, pitiless, and absolutely “by the book” regarding discipline and appearance.
In the United States, officers and non-coms of this kind are usually referred to as “chicken-s**t.” They are the ones who care more about the rules and their image than common sense.
German troops on the Eastern Front during Operation Barbarossa, 1941. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-209-0090-29 / Zoll / CC-BY-SA 3.0
In Schörner’s case, this was made even worse by his fanatical belief in Hitler and Nazism. Except for a few of his most hard-core Nazi and sycophantic officers, Schörner was hated by most of his peers and men.
Worse still, despite his aspirations to join the highest ranks of the German Army, Schörner was, like many Nazi bureaucrats, crude and a blowhard.
Nevertheless, he was able enough, and his Nazi views, as well as a toadying attitude toward the Party, brought him continued success. He impressed Hitler all the more because, to his credit and unlike many general officers, he took part in action at the Front.
General Ferdinand Schörner on inspection on the Arctic front.
In Finland, on the Arctic Front against the Soviet Union, he is reputed to have engaged in close fighting to the point of hand-to-hand combat against the Red Army on at least one occasion.
In January 1942, Schörner was promoted to Generalmajor, which is the equivalent to the US rank of Major General – “two stars.” He was then given command of the 40th Panzer Corps taking part in battles in Ukraine.
Finnish soldiers carrying Panzerfäuste on their shoulders pass by the remains of a destroyed Soviet T-34 tank at the Battle of Tali-Ihantala. Photo: SA-Kuva
Schörner’s attitude towards Soviet civilians was harsh in the extreme. Martial law was imposed by the Germans all over their conquered lands, but men like Schörner took this to an extreme in the USSR.
He is even reported to have shot nearby barking dogs because they disturbed him. Ultimately, his cruelty led him to being put on trial by the Soviets for war crimes after the war ended.
In the spring of 1944, he was put in command of Army Group South Ukraine and was promoted to the unique German rank of “Generaloberst,” or “Colonel General.”
With the Reichskommissar to Northern Norway and Finland 10 to 27 July 1942
After the tide of war turned against Germany, Schörner’s career is full of dichotomies.
At times, such as in the Crimea, he seemed to want to obey Hitler’s “to the last man” orders and enforced discipline to the point of execution on officers seen to be “defeatist.” Yet he was later to see reason and defy Hitler’s orders himself when ordering a retreat and evacuation.
Evacuation at Ventspils (Windau), Courland Pocker, 19 October 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1985-0531-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
From July 1944 to January 1945, he was in command of Army Group North (also known as “Army Group Courland”) as it retreated through the Baltics. Some 200,000 German troops were eventually trapped against the Baltic Sea on the Courland Peninsula in Latvia.
For a time, Schörner organized a stout defense against incredible odds. His Army Group was cut off from the rest of the German army by the huge Soviet “Operation Bagration.”
Panther on the Eastern Front, 1944.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-244-2321-34 / Waidelich / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Again, while initially supporting Hitler’s decision to stand and fight, Schörner eventually saw reason and asked the Führer for permission to break-out. Surprisingly, Hitler granted this request.
However, not all the German troops were able to break-out, and those left in the pocket were ordered to hold out to the last man. They did, almost to the end of the war, but Schörner was long gone.
Abandoned vehicles of the German 9th Army at a road near Bobruisk, Operation Bagration
Schörner assumed command of Army Group Center in January 1945, the most powerful and important command on the Eastern Front. By this time, the Germans were fighting on the home soil of Silesia, an important industrial and coal-mining region. Of course, Hitler gave a “last stand” order.
This time, there was really nowhere else to go, except to fall back to Berlin.
Schörner imposed his brand of discipline not only on the soldiers under his command but also on civilians. This was especially so for those unfortunate boys and elderly men who were called up for duty in the “Volkssturm,” the poorly trained and equipped militia expected to hold back millions of Red Army soldiers seeking revenge.
Those who were caught or, in many cases merely suspected, of shirking their duty or desertion were shot on Schörner’s orders. Others were hanged from streetlights and in other public places, often with a sign around their necks crudely warning others not to commit “crimes of cowardice.”
FVolkssturm marching, November 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-033-15 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
In the last days of the war, Schörner was supposed to support General Gotthard Heinrici’s defense of the Seelow Heights in front of Berlin, but poor leadership allowed the Soviets to penetrate his positions and threaten to surround the men at Seelow. Soviet victory was, by this time, already assured, despite the hard defense at Seelow and Schörner’s failure.
In the last weeks of the war, Schörner’s reputation as a butcher was cemented. He had always had a group of fanatical thugs around him to carry out his harsh orders, and now both Schörner and these men lost their minds.
Field Marshall Günther von Kluge (left) and Heinrici.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1977-120-09 / Bergmann, Johannes / CC-BY-SA 3.0
In one instance, they came across a half-track crew awaiting a mechanic – they were shot for “malingering.” The general was present when 22 German soldiers were executed on his orders. Their crime? “Standing around without orders” with the eventual intent of desertion.
Schörner and others justified their actions as part of the last effort to prevent utter catastrophe. Anyone in their right mind knew the war was over, but Schörner and others like him knew that defeat meant trial or worse for them. So the longer the war went on, the better chance they had of arranging an escape for themselves.
Ferdinand Schörner in 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2007-0313-500 / Mittelstaedt, Heinz / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Like many people who know deep down that they are doomed, they sought to prolong the inevitable end and enclosed themselves in denial.
Of course, they disguised this by incredibly harsh measures. Schörner sent a wire to troops still in Austria and Czechoslovakia, saying, “In these hard days, we must not lose our nerves or become cowardly. Any attempt to find your own way back to the homeland is a dishonorable betrayal of your comrades and your people, and will be punished.”
In Germany, hundreds of men were hanged, with a placard reading “I am a deserter. I have declined to defend German women and children and therefore I have been hanged” around their necks.
On April 4th, Schörner was made Field Marshal by Hitler. He was the last person to hold that rank. It was eliminated after WWII due to its connotations of Prussian militarism and Nazi conquest.
Members of the Flensburg Government after their arrest. Albert Speer (left), Dönitz (center) and Alfred Jodl (right).
Despite Hitler’s last wishes that Schörner take command of the German Army upon his death, Schörner ordered his troops to surrender upon hearing of the official capitulation ordered by the new leader of Germany, Admiral Dönitz.
However, rather than surrender alongside his troops, Schörner assumed a disguise and attempted to make his way into Austria, which was still unsettled and occupied by both the Red Army and the Americans. From there, he apparently hoped to make some sort of further escape to avoid justice but was apprehended by US troops.
Karl Dönitz (centre, in long, dark coat) followed by Albert Speer (bareheaded) and Alfred Jodl (on Speer’s right) during the arrest of the Flensburg government by British troops
He was held as a prisoner until 1951. Then he was turned over to the Soviets, who put him on trial for war crimes. He was sentenced to 25 years but served only three in Soviet prison.
At that time, the Soviets were trying to organize a new East Germany. Schörner was handed over to the East Germans in the hope that they would see this as a recognition of their authority. They promptly turned him over to the West Germans, who also wanted him for war crimes.
He was found guilty, but given just four and a half years to serve, which he did. He was released in 1963 and died in obscurity ten years later.
Kurt von Tippelskirch : Nazi Germany - History
By Michael E. Haskew
In October 1813, the combined allied armies of Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Saxony, and Württemberg met and defeated the French Grand Armee under Napoleon Bonaparte at the German city of Leipzig, forcing him to retreat and hastening his eventual abdication and exile to the island of Elba. Some 600,000 soldiers took part in the momentous battle. A century later, the German people commemorated the great victory in the Völkerschlacht, or Battle of the Nations, with the construction of a huge monument, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, that was completed in time for the centennial of the battle.
One of the tallest monuments in Europe, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal rises 299 feet and occupies a square base 417 feet by 417 feet. Nearly 27,000 granite blocks and tons of concrete and sandstone were used in the construction of the two-story edifice, which includes a crypt and 500 steps to a viewing platform at its top. Adorned with figures mourning the sacrifice of the dead in the Battle of the Nations and celebrating the triumphant will of the German people, the monument was constructed like a massive, thick-walled fortress. In April 1945, as World War II came to an end, the monument actually became one. How that happened is a story in itself.
A key part of the battle for Leipzig centered around the huge Völkerschlachtdenkmal monument, dedicated to the defeat of Napoleon in 1813, shown here in a recent photo.
Montgomery’s Intentions to Take Berlin
For months, the Allied rallying cry in the West had been “On to Berlin!”
From D-Day through the hedgerows of France, the breakout, and the pursuit across the German frontier, British and American commanders and their troops had looked forward to the day that the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes would be raised in triumph in the capital of a defeated Nazi Germany.
Now, in the final days of World War II with the Third Reich in its death throes, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, architect of
the broad-front strategy, skirted protocol a bit and cabled Soviet Premier Josef Stalin directly. On March 28, 1945, he forwarded a message to Maj. Gen. John R. Deane, the U.S. military liaison in Moscow, and three days later the communiqué was in the Soviet dictator’s hands.
It read in part, “My immediate operations are designed to encircle and destroy the enemy forces defending the Ruhr. My next task will be to divide the remaining enemy forces by joining with your forces…. Before deciding firmly on my plans, it is, I think, most important they should be coordinated as closely as possible with yours both as to direction and timing. Could you, therefore, tell me your intentions and let me know how far the proposals outlined in this message conform to your probable action. If we are to complete the destruction of German armies without delay, I regard it as essential that we coordinate our action and make every effort to perfect the liaison between our advancing forces. I am prepared to send officers to you for this purpose.”
A 3rd Armored Division crewman with a .30-caliber machine gun mounted on an M3 “Stuart” light tank fires on enemy troops in the woods flanking a highway near Leipzig, April 17, 1945. Although the war was nearly over, some Germans stubbornly resisted, preferring death to dishonor.
By the end of March, the Allied XXI Army Group under British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery had completed Operation Plunder and was across the Rhine in strength. Monty’s next move, he believed, was to be a massive eastward offensive against the German capital 250 miles away. Meanwhile, the American XII Army Group, commanded by Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, had crossed the Rhine more than two weeks earlier, particularly leveraging a bridgehead across the great river at Remagen.
Montgomery’s setpiece victory in the north had been ponderously slow in developing. Despite his March 27 message to Eisenhower, “Today I issued orders to army commanders for operations eastward which are about to begin,” and expressing his intent to cross the Elbe River swiftly and drive “thence by autobahn to Berlin, I hope,” some high-ranking staff officers estimated that he would need several weeks of preparation for a renewal of offensive operations.
Berlin: “A Prestige Objective”
Early in March, Eisenhower received word that the Soviet Army was across the Oder River, in some places less than 30 miles from Berlin. On March 19, the supreme commander invited Bradley to accompany him to Cannes, on the French Riviera, for a few days of rest and relaxation. While there, Eisenhower sought the perspective of his old comrade and fellow member of the U.S. Military Academy graduating class of 1915.
Eisenhower asked Bradley what he thought about a final, all-out push for Berlin. Bradley responded that the effort would cost 100,000 casualties and added wryly that it was “a pretty stiff price to pay for a prestige objective, especially when we’ve got to fall back and let the other fellow take over.”
True enough, though symbolic of the Nazi evil, Berlin held little strategic military value. Further, the “Big Three”—U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Stalin—had sealed the deal that designated prescribed Allied occupation zones in Germany after the end of the war. Berlin was 100 miles deep in the Soviet zone. It stood to reason that American and British blood should not be shed for the German capital if it was to be subsequently relinquished to the Soviets. There was also talk of diehard Nazis, many of them battle-hardened men of the SS, moving into the Harz Mountains and establishing a national redoubt from which to carry on a guerrilla war that might last for years.
As the front lines moved closer to Berlin, the fighting became more intense. Here a soldier from the 104th Infantry Division looks for any signs of life in a disabled German tank in the middle of a ruined village.
Above all, Eisenhower strove to fulfill his mission to prosecute the war with military rather than political objectives in mind. His communication with Stalin was not altogether improper. He had been authorized to discuss purely military issues with the commanders of Allied troops, and Stalin was the commander in chief of all Red Army forces. Churchill and Montgomery howled disapproval, but Eisenhower prevailed with the solid backing of U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall.
His mind made up, Eisenhower rankled the British once again by removing Maj. Gen. William Simpson’s Ninth Army from Montgomery’s command and returning it to Bradley and XII Army Group for upcoming operations. It was clear to Montgomery that the focus of Allied offensive efforts was shifting southward to the Americans. Eisenhower had long managed the difficult task of balancing the Anglo-American alliance, a tall order given the often-prickly relations between his lieutenants. This decision, however, was true to form—the right choice given the exigencies of the military situation.
The High Cost For Berlin
Berlin would be left for the Soviets to conquer—and shed blood for. British and American troops would halt at the Elbe River and link up with the Soviets there. Territory seized by Eisenhower’s command and slated for postwar occupation by the Soviets would be vacated at the appropriate time. Not surprisingly, some American field commanders, particularly Simpson, were dismayed that they were not to be allowed to advance on Berlin. Nevertheless, they followed orders.
In his response to Eisenhower, Stalin confirmed that American commander’s course of action “coincided entirely with the plan of the Soviet high command.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “In the Soviet high command plans, secondary forces will therefore be allotted to Berlin.”
In reality, Stalin mistrusted his Western allies. Red Army forces were already being marshaled for the conquest of the Nazi capital. By the time the fight for Berlin was over, the Soviets had suffered at least 80,000 dead and nearly 300,000 wounded. Some estimates are higher.
Striking Into the Heart of Germany
On March 25, just two days after the first of Montgomery’s troops set foot on the east bank of the Rhine, seven divisions of the U.S First Army under Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges struck eastward from Remagen, spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose’s 3rd Armored Division. Simpson’s Ninth Army jumped off from positions around the German city of Wesel with Maj. Gen. Isaac White’s 2nd Armored Division in the lead. The two pincers would converge some 70 miles eastward near Lippstadt and Paderborn, trapping German Army Group B in the Ruhr, the industrial heart of the Reich.
Completing their lightning run, elements of the two armored divisions met at Lippstadt about 1 pm on Easter Sunday, April 1. Surrounded in the Ruhr Pocket, some 30 miles by 75 miles, were more than 300,000 German soldiers, including the headquarters and support troops of Army Group B, most of the Fifteenth Army, two corps of the First Parachute Army, and all of the Fifth Panzer Army.
An M4 “Sherman” medium tank from the 3rd Armored Division rolls cautiously through a shattered German village.
Eisenhower weighed his options. Bradley allocated 18 divisions to the reduction of the Ruhr Pocket and readied his remaining 30 divisions for the next move. The bulk of the First and Ninth Armies were directed to continue their eastward advance across central Germany and to the Elbe. Montgomery was ordered to advance in the north, protecting the left flank of the XII Army Group. The U.S. Third Army, under General George S. Patton, Jr., continued driving southward toward the German city of Chemnitz and the Czech border, while the Sixth Army Group attacked farther south and the Seventh Army thrust toward the Austrian frontier, capturing the city of Nuremberg, site of Hitler’s massive Nazi Party rallies of the 1930s, on April 20.
“You Must Stop on the Elbe”
For reasons that were never made perfectly clear, perhaps to preserve their fighting spirit, Eisenhower chose to withhold his decision not to advance on Berlin from virtually all of his senior commanders except Bradley. On April 4, the day Ninth Army was officially returned to XII Army Group command, Bradley maintained that his subordinates were to endeavor to cross the Elbe and even ordered Simpson to “exploit any opportunity for seizing a bridgehead over the Elbe and be prepared to advance on Berlin or to the northeast.”
The veteran 2nd Armored Division again led Simpson’s thrust by April 12, Ninth Army had crossed the Elbe at Magdeburg, only 50 miles from Berlin. As Simpson sought permission to continue toward the German capital, he was taken aback by Bradley’s response.
“My people were keyed up,” Simpson remembered. “We’d been the first to the Rhine, and now we were going to be the first to Berlin. All along we thought of just one thing—capturing Berlin, going through and meeting the Russians on the other side.”
Bradley telephoned Simpson on April 15: “I’ve got something very important to tell you, and I don’t want to say it on the phone,” the XII Army Group commander said. When the two generals met at Wiesbaden, Simpson was carrying his detailed plan for the advance on Berlin.
Then, Bradley stopped him cold. “You must stop on the Elbe,” he said flatly. “You are not to advance any farther than Berlin. I’m sorry, Simp. But there it is.”
The First Army’s Advance
Hodges’s First Army was tasked with the main American thrust, directly east toward the cities of Dresden and Leipzig in Saxony. For the offensive, Hodges fielded two corps: to the left was the VII under Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins consisting of the 1st and 104th Infantry Divisions and the 3rd Armored Division, and on the right was V Corps under Maj. Gen. Clarence Huebner and including the 2nd and 69th Infantry and 9th Armored Divisions. Eventually, Dresden was occupied by the Red Army following the German surrender. However, the American advance on Leipzig precipitated an unusual series of events.
An M7 105mm howitzer motor carriage (“Priest”) of the 9th Armored Division advances through the streets of a German town, April 1945.
On April 5, First Army resumed its eastward drive. Huebner’s V Corps was led by the 69th and 2nd Divisions, under Maj. Gens. Emil F. Reinhardt and Walter M. Robertson, respectively. After two days of fighting against the German LXVII Corps, the best of their patchwork Eleventh Army, the 69th Division had advanced from Kassel and crossed the Werra River. Against lighter opposition, the 2nd Division was across the Weser River in little more than 24 hours. On April 7, troops of the 2nd Division pressed six miles beyond the Weser. Concerns that the Germans were preparing a substantial defense in the vicinity of the Weser faded.
On April 8, both V Corps infantry divisions crossed the Leine River near Göttingen, and the following day they advanced another 10 miles against only token resistance. Troops of the 2nd Division discovered a prison camp at Duderstadt and freed 600 prisoners, including 100 Americans. Meanwhile, the 69th occupied Heiligenstadt.
The Flak Cannons of Leuna and Leipzig
To date, Bradley had been concerned that his combat units maintain a coordinated front as they advanced. However, on April 10, he lifted all restrictions on eastward movement. Huebner shifted the 9th Armored Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. John W. Leonard, to spearhead the V Corps drive. In Collins’s VII Corps, the 3rd Armored Division, under the command of Brig. Gen. Doyle Hickey after the death of General Rose near Paderborn at the end of March, led the way.
Both divisions made significant progress as the 3rd Armored Division liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp on April 11, where a corpsman of the 329th Medical Battalion observed, “Rows upon rows of skin-covered skeletons met our eyes…. Their striped coats and prison numbers hung to their frames as a last token or symbol of those who enslaved and killed them.”
The bodies of hundreds of slave laborers are laid out at Nordhausen concentration camp in preparation for burial. GIs from the 3rd Armored Division liberated the camp on April 11, 1945.
The tankers waited for fuel, and in the meantime found a slave labor camp with a capacity for 30,000 workers, none of whom appeared to have been left alive, and a large underground manufacturing facility that produced engines for the dreaded V-2 rocket that terrorized London and other cities in the waning months of the war.
An American soldier inspects the engine of a V-2 pilotless rocket bomb on the assembly line at the underground factory near Nordhausen. The V-1 rockets were also assembled here by slave laborers from concentration camps.
As the V Corps vanguard approached the Saale River, its northern shoulder came under fire from German antiaircraft weapons, their crews directed to depress their firing angles to hit the American armored formations. The 9th Armored Division lost nine tanks to the accurate fire before the guns were silenced. Apparently, the Germans had concentrated several rings of antiaircraft weapons in the region—not to defend the cities, but to guard synthetic oil refineries and numerous industrial facilities in the vicinity. Reports indicate that 374 heavy flak weapons were in the area, 104 of them around the city of Leuna and 174 around Leipzig.
Since the spring of 1944, the 14th Flak Division had been headquartered in Leipzig. Grouped in batteries of 12 to 36 guns, they ranged from 75mm to heavy 128mm weapons. Early in the war, the German 88mm antiaircraft gun had proven deadly against ground targets, and the flat terrain surrounding Leipzig offered excellent fields of fire. The area had been known to Allied airmen as “Flak Alley” for some time however, no one had found it necessary to inform the advancing infantry and armor of the menace that awaited them.
General Huebner concluded that the flak guns were the outer band of the defenses of Leipzig. He ordered the 9th Armored Division to move 13 miles southeast, around the city and to the banks of the Mulde River. The 2nd Infantry Division was to continue directly eastward toward Leipzig, while the 69th was ordered to follow the 9th Armored and then enter the city from the south and southwest.
Cutting Off Leipzig
General Leonard’s tanks ran into stiff resistance at the Saale River near the town of Weissenfels and rerouted to cross the waterway on an intact bridge to the southwest. That same day, April 13, the tanks neared the town of Zeitz and rolled over the Weisse Elster River. Breaking through the deadly ring of flak guns, Combat Command Reserve (CCR) of the 9th Armored raced to the Mulde River, 20 miles southeast of Leipzig, on April 15.
On the 16th, CCR entered Colditz and liberated the 1,800 Allied prisoners of the infamous Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz Castle, which held a number of famous and high-ranking officers, some of whom had been transferred there because of repeated attempts to escape. With the capture of Halle in the Harz Mountains two days later, Leipzig was effectively cut off.
Meanwhile, the 271st Infantry Regiment, 69th Division secured Weissenfels during some spirited fighting on April 13-14, killing or capturing many of the 1,500-man garrison and then crossing the Saale in small boats. On the 15th, elements of the 2nd Division captured Merseburg and occupied numerous small towns in the area. As one regiment crossed the Saale after dark on a railroad bridge that was damaged though still standing, other infantry units crept close enough to the German antiaircraft guns to radio coordinates to their own artillery and bring accurate fire on the positions, finally destroying many of the enemy weapons.
Their faces full of concern for the unknown future, Leipzig residents emerge from hiding as German resistance ends and American occupation begins.
The Allied noose around Leipzig, Germany’s fifth largest city with 750,000 inhabitants, was tightening. Leipzig had long been revered for its historical significance and as a center of German culture, higher education, trade, and industry. Martin Luther had led the congregation of the St. Thomas Church there composer Johann Sebastian Bach played the organ in the same church for more than 25 years and was buried on the grounds. Composer Richard Wagner was born in the city. And in Leipzig the Völkerschlachtdenkmal was built to commemorate a great victory. It was inevitable that the monument would become the scene of Germany’s last stand.
Poncet vs Grolmann: A Fanatic Against a Realist
Colonel Hans von Poncet commanded the relative handful of German defenders in Leipzig, which included troops of the 14th Flak Division, some of whom had lost their antiaircraft weapons and were now serving as infantry, 750 men of the 107th Motorized Infantry Regiment, a motorized battalion of about 250 soldiers, some Hitler Youth, and several battalions of the Volkssturm, mostly old men and boys who had been forced into the Army as a home guard when the fortunes of war turned decidedly against Germany.
One sizable unit that Poncet did not control was the 3,400-strong Leipzig police force. The policemen, paramilitary in their own right, were firmly under the command of Brig. Gen. of Police Wilhelm von Grolmann.
Grolmann decried Poncet’s willingness to employ the Volkssturm and considered it tantamount to murder. He saw nothing to be gained in a futile defense of the city. Hoping to spare Leipzig from destruction, Grolmann was particularly concerned about damage to the city’s electrical and water supplies if the bridges over the Weisse Elster River were destroyed to slow the Americans. Poncet couldn’t have cared less he was determined to fight and fortified numerous buildings around the city hall and later withdrew into the Battle of the Nations Monument with about 150 men, some of whom were later described by the Americans as SS troops.
While Poncet plotted his own Götterdämmerung, Grolmann was trying his best to surrender the city. Late on the afternoon of April 18, Grolmann miraculously made telephone contact with General Robertson of the 2nd Division and offered to capitulate. As the news was passed up the American chain of command from Huebner to Hodges, Grolmann got Poncet on the telephone and was told curtly, just prior to the click of a hangup, that Poncet had no intention of surrendering.
Charles MacDonald Attempts to Negotiate the Surrender of Leipzig
By this time, Hodges had responded that only the complete, unconditional surrender of Leipzig was acceptable. Then, an already strange series of events became even more bizarre. Despite Poncet’s intransigence, Grolmann sent a junior officer to the closest Americans he could find. In the gathering darkness, the emissary was shuffled into the command post of Company G, 23rd Regiment, 2nd Division and the presence of its commander, Captain Charles B. MacDonald.
At the tender age of 22, MacDonald was a combat veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, the Hürtgen Forest, and the campaign into the Third Reich. In later years, he became an acclaimed author and deputy chief historian for the U.S. Army, writing and supervising the preparation of several volumes in the official series United States Army in World War II, popularly known as the Green Book Series. Among his other works are the quintessential reminiscences of a young officer in combat, Company Commander, and A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. MacDonald authored The Last Offensive, the volume of the official history containing the story of the fall of Leipzig and downplayed his role in it. In Company Commander, however, he remembered a wild night of cat and mouse, cloak and dagger, and outright comedy.
“Now wait a minute,” MacDonald remembered asking the excited soldiers who had brought in the German officer. “Does he know I’m just a captain? Will he surrender to a captain?”
“A captain’s good enough,” another soldier said. “The Oberleutnant [first lieutenant] here came along so you’d believe us. He’ll tell you.”
“He [the other American soldier] spoke to the German officer in German mixed with gestures, mostly gestures, and the Oberleutnant looked at me and smiled widely, shaking his head up and down,” MacDonald recalled, “and saying, ‘Jawohl! Jawohl! Ist gut! Ist gut!’”
An American MP escorts three German prisoners of war, who had changed into civilian clothing in hopes of evading capture, to a temporary stockade near the main Leipzig railroad station. Note the other prisoners lying on the ground.
Only the regimental executive officer was available for any higher direction, and he told MacDonald to give it a try. The young captain went first to see a German major and several other officers, dressed in clean, neatly pressed uniforms, inside the city. When MacDonald was not convinced, the major offered a bottle of cognac. After a drink, MacDonald, another American officer, the German major, and their chauffeur embarked on a wild nocturnal ride in a sleek Mercedes Benz—to see Grolmann.
MacDonald was fearful of being shot by German sentries and by his own men. Finally, he arrived at Grolmann’s headquarters. In contrast to MacDonald, dressed in a filthy uniform and with a scruffy beard, Grolmann was “even more immaculately dressed than the others, a long row of military decorations across his chest. His face was round and red and cleanly shaven. A monocle in his right eye gave him an appearance that made me want to congratulate Hollywood on its movie interpretations of high-ranking Nazis.”
Grolmann offered to surrender but acknowledged that he had no control over Poncet. Still, he pressed MacDonald for a guarantee that the Americans would not attack. Finally, MacDonald, Grolmann, a staff officer, and the general’s civilian interpreter were on their way in Grolmann’s open-top car to the confused American captain’s battalion headquarters. Once they arrived, the situation was out of MacDonald’s hands. As it turned out, the surrender effort was noble but fruitless. There was already some fighting in Leipzig.
The Battle of Leipzig
Forward elements of the 2nd and 69th Divisions entered Leipzig on April 18. The 2nd encountered some resistance along the Weisse Elster River, but the bridges remained intact. A few Volkssturm and Wehrmacht soldiers made a stand behind a roadblock of overturned trolley cars filled with large rocks but were rapidly subdued. Spearheaded by an armored task force of the 777th Tank Battalion under the command of Lieutenant David Zweibel, troops of the 69th advanced into Leipzig from the south at 5:30 pm and ran into determined resistance at Napoleon Platz, where the monument was located.
GIs from a machine-gun squad move through the rubble of a destroyed German town in early April 1945.
As Zweibel’s armor neared Napoleon Platz, the tankers were greeted with a hail of small-arms fire and rounds from panzerfaust antitank weapons. One Sherman tank was disabled, and the supporting infantry took a number of casualties. Eager to get out of the line of fire, the tanks picked up speed and rolled at nearly 30 miles per hour down the streets toward the city hall some infantrymen riding atop the armored vehicles were actually thrown off. Faulty maps caused the attackers to overshoot city hall and placed them in a precarious position, unable to advance or fire on nearby German positions. After dark, the tanks were withdrawn.
The following morning, Zweibel again assaulted the center of Leipzig, firing at city hall and the surrounding buildings from a range of only 150 yards. Just after 9 am, following several frustrating attempts to secure the area, Zweibel sent Leipzig’s fire chief into city hall with a surrender demand. The note read that the Germans must surrender if they wanted to avoid a heavy artillery bombardment followed by an all-out assault with tanks, flamethrowers, and a division of infantry the attack would begin in 20 minutes. Nearly 200 Germans walked out of city hall with their hands up. Inside, the bodies of Mayor Alfred Frieberg and his wife, City Treasurer Kurt Lisso and his wife and daughter, and several others who had committed suicide were found.
Not wishing to live in a defeated Germany, Leipzig municipal treasurer Kurt Lisson, his wife, and daughter committed suicide in the Rathaus (city hall).
Standoff at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal for the Battle of the Nations
However, Leipzig was not completely subdued. The drama at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal remained to be played out. On the morning of April 19, Poncet was still defiant. His small force occupied a nearly impregnable position. Heavy artillery shells did little damage to the sturdy walls of the monument, and the Germans inside were holding 17 American prisoners. Because there were Americans inside, General Reinhardt decided against using flamethrowers to burn the Germans out.
As the standoff wore on, Captain Hans Trefousse, an interrogator of German prisoners with the 273rd Infantry Regiment, persuaded his commanding officer, Colonel C.M. Adams, to allow Trefousse to attempt to persuade Poncet to surrender. Trefousse had been born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1921 and emigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of 13. He graduated from City College of New York with a Phi Beta Kappa key and joined the U.S. Army when war broke out.
Volkssturm battalion commander Major Walter Dönicke also took his own life on April 19 in Leipzig city hall rather than surrender. Someone has propped a torn portrait of Hitler next to his body.
At 3 pm on the 19th, Trefousse, a German prisoner, and the executive officer of the 273rd Regiment, Lt. Col. George Knight, approached the monument under a flag of truce. When Poncet and two other German officers met them, Trefousse pointed out the hopelessness of the situation but Poncet responded that he was under a direct order from Hitler not to surrender. He did, however, agree to a two-hour ceasefire to allow at least a dozen American casualties to be removed.
Throughout the ceasefire, the two argued in front of the entrance to the monument’s gift shop. At 5 pm, the heated discussion moved inside. While celebrations among the American troops were in full swing elsewhere in Leipzig, the grim exchange at the monument continued past midnight.
“If you were a Bolshevik,” Poncet sneered, “I wouldn’t talk to you at all. In four years, you and I will meet in Siberia.”
Trefousse retorted, “If that is true, wouldn’t it be a pity to sacrifice all these German soldiers who could help us against the Russians?”
Terms of Surrender
As it seemed the impasse would never be resolved, Trefousse extended one last option. If Poncet surrendered and walked out of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal alone, his men could follow one at a time. At 2 am on April 20, the diehard Nazi commander strode out of the main entrance. The pockmarked, damaged monument was secured, but not before some confusion ensued as to the disposition of the newly acquired prisoners.
Word reached Trefousse that only Poncet would be allowed out of the monument and that the rest of the Germans would temporarily remain inside under guard. When Trefousse tried to persuade the captives to accept the change in terms, he offered to try to get them 48 hours’ leave in the city in exchange for a pledge not to escape. One German insisted on the original bargain and was allowed to leave the monument.
Seemingly being watched by displeased Germanic statues, a 69th Infantry Division soldier stands amid the rubble inside the Völkerschlachtdenkmal shortly after Leipzig was taken.
Trefousse went to Lt. Col. Knight for permission to grant the 48-hour leave. Knight agreed but insisted that the Germans had to be moved without General Reinhardt getting wind of the compromise. As Knight supervised the disarming of the enlisted prisoners, Trefousse guided more than a dozen German officers through the lines to their homes in Leipzig. When it was time for them to return to captivity, only one failed to appear, although he did leave behind a note of apology.
Leipzig Handed to the Soviets
Leipzig was, at long last, completely in American hands. The infantry of the 2nd and 69th Divisions hurried to catch up with the V Corps armor that was already near the banks of the Mulde River. Garrison troops began to file into the city to initiate its military administration.
For most American soldiers, the fighting was over. They were not going to Berlin. They were simply to wait for the Red Army and extend a tenuous hand to their allies. On April 25, 1945, 1st Lt. Albert Kotzebue of the 69th’s 273rd Infantry Regiment and three soldiers of an intelligence and reconnaissance unit crossed the Elbe in a small boat and met soldiers of a Red Army Guards rifle regiment belonging to the 1st Ukrainian Front. East and West had met amid the ruins of the Third Reich.
In July, the Americans withdrew from Leipzig, retiring westward to the line that marked the designated postwar zones of occupation and the Red Army moved in. For the next half century, Leipzig was one of the principal cities of the communist German Democratic Republic.
Today, after years of neglect and disrepair and the reunification of the German nation, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal has undergone extensive renovation in observance of the 200th anniversary of the first great Battle of Leipzig. It remains an imposing monument, not only to the victory over Napoleon, but also to one of the last battles of World War II.
My father was in the 777th Tank Battalion in the 69th Infantry Division in Leipzig. He was involved in the tank assault on city hall and entered the hall to find the suicides – as well as a ton of money. Told by their Battalion Commander Lieutenant COLONEL David Zweibel that the money was worthless, they used it for toilet paper and to light cigarettes and cigars. Note thtat Zweibel was Lieutenant Colonel, NOT simply a lieutenant.
Hello. Great article. I was reading this because I have a Nazi flag captured by the 302d FA Btln. of the 76th ID. They were in or near this battle. The flag is signed and in very good condition. Was signed in Arnstadt. Call me if you you are interested (I am not selling it or anything, just researching ).
My father also was in the 777th and participated in this battle. He was in the Reconnaissance Platoon.
My late father was a prisoner of war at espenhain , south of Leipzig
He escaped & found his way to the American forces
On his way he ran into a flak battery , where he talked & smoked with a German artillery sergeant , he pointed out where the American army was , & allowed my father to leave
On getting to the us forces , they nearly shot him, thinking he may be a German ( having a heavy south African accent didn’t help )
He found out that they were having problems with a flak battery ( the one he had been at ) & led the Americans to it
Probe launched after possible mass grave found near Auschwitz
BERLIN — He was Adolf Hitler’s devoted bodyguard for most of World War II and the last remaining witness to the Nazi leader’s final hours in his Berlin bunker. To the very end, SS Staff Sgt. Rochus Misch was proud of it all.
For years, he accompanied Hitler nearly everywhere he went, sticking by the man he affectionately called “boss” until the dictator and his wife, Eva Braun, killed themselves as defeat at the hands of the Allies drew nearer. The loyal SS officer remained in what he called the “coffin of concrete” for days after Hitler’s death, finally escaping as Berlin crumbled around him and the Soviets swarmed the city.
Even in his later years, during a 2005 interview with The Associated Press in which he recounted Hitler’s claustrophobic, chaotic final days, Misch still cut the image of an SS man. He had a rigid posture, broad shoulders, neatly combed white hair — and no apologies for his close relationship with the most reviled man of the 20th century.
“He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman,” Misch said.
The 96-year-old Misch died Thursday, one of the last of a generation that bears direct responsibility for German brutality during World War II. In his interview with the AP, he stayed away from the central questions of guilt and responsibility, saying he knew nothing of the murder of 6 million Jews and that Hitler never brought up the Final Solution in his presence.
“That was never a topic,” he said emphatically. “Never.”
In the forward to the English-language version of his book, “The Last Witness” — due for publication in October — he wrote that it was a different “reality” then and he never asked questions during what he considered just his “regular day at work.”
In the AP interview, he appeared to have little empathy for those he did not directly know, and even for some he did.
Misch was moved nearly to tears when talking about Joseph and Magda Goebbels’ decision to kill their six children in the Berlin bunker before committing suicide themselves. But he was also able to guffaw about a family friend, “a real lefty,” being thrown into the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin and noting upon his release that “the paper shirts (at the camp) were uncomfortable.”
Born July 29, 1917, in the tiny Silesian town of Alt Schalkowitz, in what today is Poland, Misch was orphaned at an early age.
Against the backdrop of the bloody Russian revolution and the rise of Stalin, combined with the post-World War I popularity of the Communist Party in Germany, Misch said he decided at 20 to join the SS — an organization he saw as a counterweight to the threat from the left.
He signed up for the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, a Berlin-based unit that originally was founded as the Fuehrer’s personal bodyguard.
“It was anti-communist, against Stalin — to protect Europe,” Misch said, noting that thousands of other Western Europeans served in the Waffen SS. “I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler.”
But when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Misch found himself in the vanguard when his SS division was attached to a regular army unit for the blitzkrieg attack. As German forces quickly closed in on Warsaw, Misch, who spoke some Polish, was sent with a party to negotiate the surrender of a fortress and was told by the troops inside that they needed time to think about the offer.
“As we were walking away they opened fire,” Misch said at his home in Berlin. “A bullet came through here and right out, two centimeters from my heart.”
After his evacuation to Germany and convalescence, he was appointed in May 1940 to serve as one of two SS men who would serve as Hitler’s bodyguards and general assistants, doing everything from answering the telephones to greeting dignitaries — and once running flowers to one of the Fuehrer’s favorite musicians who had just gotten engaged.
Misch and SS comrade Johannes Hentschel accompanied Hitler almost everywhere he went, including his Alpine retreat in Berchtesgaden and his forward “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters. He lived between Hitler’s apartments in the New Reich Chancellery and the home in a working-class Berlin neighborhood that he kept until his death.
“He was a wonderful boss,” Misch said. “I lived with him for five years. We were the closest people who worked with him … we were always there. Hitler was never without us day and night.”
In the last eight to 10 days of Hitler’s life, Misch followed him to live underground, protected by the so-called Fuehrerbunker’s heavily reinforced concrete ceilings and walls.
“Hentschel ran the lights, air and water and I did the telephones — there was nobody else,” he said. “When someone would come downstairs we couldn’t even offer them a place to sit. It was far too small — little cells of 10 or 12 square meters. It was no bunker to live in. It was an air-raid bunker.”
After the Soviet assault began, Misch remembered generals and Nazi brass coming and going as they tried desperately to cobble together a defense of the capital with the ragtag remains of the German military.
He remembered that on April 22, two days before two Soviet armies completed their encirclement of the city, Hitler said, “That’s it. The war is lost. Everybody can go.”
“Everyone except those who still had jobs to do like us — we had to stay,” Misch said. “The lights, water, telephone … those had to be kept going, but everybody else was allowed to go and almost all were gone immediately.”
But that same day, Hitler clung to hope given by what turned out to be a false report that the Western Allies had called upon Germany to hold Berlin for two more weeks against the Soviets so that they could battle communism together.
“He still believed in a union between West and East,” Misch said. “Hitler liked England — except for (then-Prime Minister Winston) Churchill — and didn’t think that a people like the English would bind themselves with the communists to crush Germany.”
On April 28, Misch saw the familiar figures of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and Hitler confidant Martin Bormann enter the bunker with a man he had never seen before.
“I asked who it was, and they said that’s the civil magistrate who has come to perform Hitler’s marriage,” Misch said.
That night, Hitler and longtime mistress Eva Braun were married in a short ceremony in which they both pledged they were of pure Aryan descent before taking their vows and signing a registry book.
Two days later, Misch saw Goebbels and Bormann again, this time talking with Hitler and his adjutant, SS Maj. Otto Guensche, in the bunker’s corridor outside the telephone operator’s room.
“I saw him go into his room … and someone, Guensche, said that he shouldn’t be disturbed. And that meant ‘Now it’s happening,'” Misch said. “We all knew that it was happening. He said he wasn’t going to leave Berlin, he would stay here.”
“We heard no shot, we heard nothing, but one of those who was in the hallway, I don’t remember if it was Guensche or Bormann, said ‘Linge, Linge, I think it’s done,'” Misch said, referring to Hitler’s valet Heinz Linge.
“Then everything was really quiet, everything was still … who opened the door I don’t remember, Guensche or Linge. They opened the door, and I naturally looked, and then there was a short pause and the second door was opened… and I saw Hitler lying on the table like so,” Misch said, putting his head down on his hands on his living-room table.
“And Eva lay like so on the sofa with knees up, her head to him. I don’t remember now if Hitler sat on the sofa or on a chair next to it.” Eva Braun had died of poisoning and Hitler had shot himself.
The silence and anticipation then gave way to chaos, when Misch ran up to the chancellery to tell his superior the news and then back downstairs, where Hitler’s corpse had been put on the floor with a blanket over it.
“Then they bundled Hitler up and said ‘What do we do now?'” Misch said. “As they took Hitler out … they walked by me about three or four meters away, I saw his shoes sticking outside the sack.”
After the bodies were carried outside, an SS guard ran down the stairs and tried to get Misch to join the spectacle outside as the two were covered in gasoline and set alight.
“He said ‘The boss is being burned. Come on out,'” Misch recalled. But instead Misch hastily retreated deeper into the bunker to talk with comrade Hentschel.
“I said ‘Do you think we’re going to be killed?’ and he said ‘Why do you think that?'” Misch said. “I said ‘I saw the Gestapo upstairs in the … chancellery and it could be that they’ll want to kill us as witnesses.'”
But Misch stuck to his post — taking and directing telephone calls with Goebbels as his new boss until May 2, when he was given permission to flee.
“Everybody was upstairs in the … chancellery, there were things to eat and drink there, downstairs in the bunker there was nothing. It was a coffin of concrete,” he said. “Then Goebbels finally came down and said, ‘You have a chance to live. You don’t have to stay here and die.'”
Misch grabbed the rucksack he had packed and fled with a few others into the rubble of Berlin. Working his way through cellars and subways, Misch bumped into a large group of civilians seeking shelter in one tunnel.
“Two were playing music,” he said, remembering how incongruous the scene seemed to him. “I came out of the death bunker of concrete, and here were two people playing music on guitar.”
Misch later heard German voices above through an air ventilation shaft and climbed up to try his luck. But the voices came from about 300 soldiers who had been taken prisoner, and the Soviet guards grabbed him as well.
Following the German surrender May 7, Misch was taken to the Soviet Union, where he spent the next nine years in prisoner of war camps before being allowed to return to Berlin in 1954. He reunited with his wife Gerda, whom he had married in 1942 and who died in 1997, and opened up a shop.
In 2005, Sitting at his table next to a pile of mail from “fans” to whom he sent autographed photographs of himself in full SS uniform outside the Wolf’s Lair, he leafed through his well-thumbed photo album remembering his days with the most infamous people in recent history.
“Here is Hitler — my boss — Eva, a friend of Eva …,” he said. “Very normal. Not like what is written.”
He turned the page to photos of Braun in the idyllic setting of the Berghof, Hitler’s Bavarian mountain residence, and lit up as he remembered a moment from those days.
“This small black dog comes running and gets under the fence, and Hitler said, ‘My God, what is this? Racial mixing?'”
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ADDRESSES FOR INFORMATION AND RESEARCH
Bundesarchiv - Militärarchiv
Federal Records Office - Military Archive
Phone: +49 (0761) 47817 0
Fax: +49 (0761) 47817 900
Archive specialist service:
Phone: 0761 47817 864
User room service:
Telephone: +49 (0761) 47817 911
Bundesarchiv - Zentralnachweisstelle
Federal Central Record Office
Phone: +49 024 081470
Fax: +49 024 0811437
The offical Institution which houses documents and information of historical importance to the German Federal Republic. A great deal of information it holds relates to WWII, and is available for use by researchers and authors. As per the Bundesarchiv: "Everybody shall upon application have the right to use Federal archival documents more than 30 years old unless legal stipulations provide otherwise. "
Bundesarchiv - Personenbezogene Auskünfte - PA
Federal Records Office - Personal Information
Phone: +49 (030) 41904 440
+49 (030) 41904 100
As a branch of the German Federal Archive system, this office is a contact point for information on specific personnel questions relating to those who survived WWII. For information on German veterans MIA or KIA during WWII, please see WASt below.
Bundesministerium der Verteidigung
Federal Ministry of Defense
Bundesministerium der Verteidigung
Postfach 13 28
Deutsche Dienstelle (WASt)
Wehrmacht Information Office for War Losses and PoWs
Deutsche Dienstelle (WASt)
Postfach 51 06 57
Phone: +49 (030) 41904-100
Fax: +49 (030) 41904-100
For the notification of next-of-kin of members of the former German Wehrmacht who were killed in action. The WASt can help with the following:
- Provide certificates confirming a person was killed in action.
- Providing supporting documentation when applying for death certificates.
- Help solve MIA cases.
- Help decode Wehrmacht identity discs.
- Help decode Wehrmacht Field Post Office Numbers.
- Provide known locations of war graves.
- Aid in the administration of personal effects.
- Provide records of Military Service.
- Provide certificates required by the Social Security Services, Ministry of Pensions, etc.
- Provide proof of time spent as a POW.
- Provide proof of decorations and Honour Awards.
- Provide proof of nationality.
Please note that in accordance with the German Data Protection Law the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) is only allowed to provide information to the persons concerned, their relatives or their legal heirs, or to Authorities in the carrying out of their legal duties.
History of the WASt:
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the National Information Office was opened in Berlin W 30, in accordance with Article 77 of the Geneva Convention of 27.07.29 dealing with the treatment of prisoners-of-war. It took up its duties on 26.08.39 as Office of the Wehrmacht High Command with the title "Wehrmacht Information Office for War Losses and P.o.W.s" or WASt. In addition to providing information about foreign prisoners-of-war its main tasks were the registration of German Wehrmacht casualties (wounds, illness, deaths, MIAs), the processing of these cases including personal status control and official grave service. In August 1943 the Wehrmacht Information Office was moved to Thuringia, part of it being stored in Saalfeld and part in Meiningen. After the occupation of Thuringia, from the 12.04.45 onwards, the WASt worked under the supervision of the American Military Commission. On the 01.07.1945, immediately before Soviet troops took over in Thuringia, the Americans moved the WASt to Fürstenhagen near Kassel. At the end of January 1946 the WASt returned to Berlin and received its present name, which is a literal translation of the American designation. On the 14.06.46 the Allied Control Commission decreed that the WASt was to continue its work created by national and international commitments. At the same time the French section of the Control Commission took over the administration of the WASt. During the early post-war years the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) received many comprehensive records of other military and para-military organisations. In addition, in December 1990, it took over a large amount of records of the one-time Wehrmacht for evaluation. These records had been stored in the Military Archives Potsdam and the State Archives of the one-time GDR substation Dornburg near Zerbst/Anhalt. Owing to post-war laws the original task of the WASt has increased considerably. Because of its unique material the Information Office is approached by private individuals as well as authorities dealing with cases which concern Wehrmacht service and its effect in numerous areas. After an Administration Agreement on the 09.01.51 between the Federal Government and the Land Berlin the Information Office (WASt) became an Authority of the Land Berlin. It is part of the Senate Adminstration of Health and Social Security subordinate to the President of Department of Health and Social Security Berlin.
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz
German Red Cross
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz
Deutsches Rotes Kreuz
D-81549 München (Munich)
The German branch of the international Red Cross, the world-wide emergency relief organization. The DRK was active during WWII, and also maintains a great deal of documents and information pertaining to WWII.
Institut für Vertriebenenforschung
Institute for Research of Expelled Germans
The Institute for Research of Expelled Germans is an academic organisation that documents the largely unknown story of more than 10,000,000 ethnic German civilians who were subjected to deportation, compulsory labour, and in many cases starvation and ethnic violence after World War II.
Internationaler Suchdienst Arolsen
International Tracing Service Arolsen
Große Allee 5 - 9
34454 Bad Arolsen
Phone: +49 (0)5691 629-0
Fax: +49 (0)5691 629-501
The Arolsen Archives carrys out research for survivors and relatives, they provide information for people involved in education and research and organize exhibitions, lectures and more.
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge
German War Graves Commission
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräbefürsorge
Werner-Hilpert Strasse 2
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. is a humanitarian organisation charged by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany with recording, maintaining and caring for the graves of German war casualties abroad.
Gemeinshaft der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger
Organization of Air Force Fighter Pilots
Gemeinshaft der Jagdflieger
Vereinigung der Flieger
Deutscher Streitkrafte e.V.
The community is an amalgamation of members and former members of the flying units of the German armed forces, including the support staff and members of their families. The community wants to preserve the traditions of the aviator generations and critically examine the eventful history of the German armed forces. In the interests of international understanding, they connect with the relatives and former members of foreign aviation associations.
Within the elite social context of the time, gaining these scars was associated with status and the prestigious academic institutions in which these duels took place. The scars showed courage as well as being “good husband material.” Even Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire prior to the Third Reich, once said that a man’s bravery and courage could be judged “by the number of scars on their cheeks.”
Minority groups in Germany also viewed the practice of facial scarification as a way to aid their social situation. This included some Jews who were said to have worn their scars with pride and were even perceived by others as being “socially healthy individuals.”
Kurt von Tippelskirch : Nazi Germany - History
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Index of German-Polish and Polish-German names of the localities in Poland & Russia, by Anna Sluszkiewicz
- Index contains Polish and previous German names of localities situated in Poland and Russia useful for research, history, genealogy, numismatics, philatelic etc. Please excuse lack of Polish and German letters. Index contains also some names of places from former Saxony now in Poland and Silesien now in Germany.
- Der Index enthaelt polnische und fruehere deutsche Ortsnamen aus Polen und Russland. Nuetzlich fr Forschung, Geschichte, Genealogie, Numismatik, Philatelie usw. Entschuldigen Sie bitte das Fehlen von deutschen und polnischen Spezialbuchstaben. In dieser Liste koennen Sie auch Ortsnamen aus Sachsen, die jetzt in Polen, und aus Schlesien, die jetzt in Deutschland liegen, finden.
- Indeks zawiera polskie i byle niemieckie nazwy miejscowosci z Polski i Rosji. Moze byc pomocny w badaniach historycznych, geneaologii, numismatyce, filatelistyce etc. Przepraszamy za brak liter polskich i niemieckich. Indeks zawiera takze nazwy kilku miejscowosci bylej Saksonii obecnie w Polsce, oraz Slaska obecnie w Niemczech.
- Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Ortschaften jenseits von Oder und Neie (Localites from East of Oder and Neisse) by M. Kaemmerer
German-Polish and Polish-German Index of localities in Poland, before World War II in Germany (Pomerania, East Prussia, Silesia, Brandenburg).
- Marco Polo Reiseatlas Polen 1 : 300 000. (Detailed Road Atlas of Poland)
- Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Ortschaften jenseits von Oder und Neie (Localites from East of Oder and Neisse) by M. Kaemmerer
- If you interested in history of Poland we would like to recommend those books. They are not only the best books on Poland in the English language, they are the best books on Poland by Norman Davies, Professor Emeritus of the University of London, Senior Member of Wolfson College, Oxford.:
- God's Playground, History of Poland, volume 1(till 1795) by Norman Davies *
- God's Playground, History of Poland, volume 2(1795 to the Present) by Norman Davies *
- Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies *
- Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944 by Richard C. Lukas (Author), Norman Davies (Foreword)*
*Norman Davies ,
- Europe : A History by Norman Davies *
The entire history of Europe, from the Ice Age to the Information Age, histories of peoples, nations, states. The book is excellent because it covers a big topic without being too generalizing.
- Internet resources:
- Ravenstein Atlas of the German Empire, 1883.
Large scale of maps (1:850,000) and gazetteer of place-names, can locate even small towns and villages on the maps in the Ravenstein atlas.
- Ravenstein Atlas of the German Empire, 1883.
Search the German-Polish Index below or move to the Polish-German Index Search the German-Polish Index above or move to the Polish-German Index